SH Spotlight PART DEUX: Recording and mastering questions asked and (hopefully) answered

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, May 8, 2006.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Part one was getting a bit hard to navigate so it was moved to the F.A.Q. section of the SH Forums:

    First questions asked on the old thread:

    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=78628

    Last question asked and answered on the old thread was:

    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?p=1778768#post1778768

    I've talked about this at length. The ability of the mastering engineer to add endless brain-numbing treble to everything in digital has given the medium a very bad rap. Too bad.

    Cutting in analog means that you have to follow certain rules and obey the natural laws. This translates to a much more neutral product. In other words, mastering engineers cannot veer too much from the path of good.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    If you have any recording or mastering questions, ask them here and I (or one of us) will do our best to answer.
     
  2. ManFromCouv

    ManFromCouv Employee #3541

    Steve, not a mastering question per se, but I just wanted to know how the tapes for the Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James albums sound. Vanguard is absolutely my favorite label ever, and I'd like to think they take excellent care of their masters. I'm mightily looking forward to these two brilliant albums. I plan on paying about $1550 for them. $25 each and $1500 for a turntable/arm/cart. :sigh:
    I'm also assuming you're working with the stereo masters?
     
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Have not heard them yet; some time next week.
     
  4. Ere

    Ere Senior Member

    Location:
    Silver Spring MD
    What was the most unusual master source you have worked from and what challenges did it pose? what was the content? (Recently you spoke about working from glass or metal platters...)
     
  5. DennisF

    DennisF Forum Resident

    When people talk about ear bleeders, does that usually refer to the sharpness in the music, vocals or both? I have heard CDs where the music sounds good, but the vocal sounds too tinny or sharp. Is there a general fix when the vocal is the problem? Thanks Dennis
     
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Probably the biggest pain is working from acetate. Usually 16" discs. In the old days I had to edit out the pops and tics by hand after transferring to analog tape. Always a pain. If you cut too much the music "jumped". If you cut out too little, a pop became a tic and you had to reopen your splice and try again, usually creasing the tape in the process. A real butt pain.
     
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Ear bleeders: Bright CD's usually. Perhaps caused by an unsympathetic recording or mastering engineer who cranked in the treble or did a combo of treble addition, bass reduction and digital compression or whatever.

    There are general fixes for vocals, etc. but if I told you exactly what they were I'd have to kill you after. :) On the Creedence stuff I worked on I mastered for the "breath of life" in John's voice leaving the music sort of, well, lacking in top end a bit. Every other approach I've ever heard just added treble to make the drums and cymbals stand out but in doing so made Fogerty sound like a screech-monster. Can't stand that sound. Gives me a headache and doesn't wear well over an entire album.
     
  8. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    Tell him, then kill him, but don't tell anyone where you buried the body...:D

    Which is why the SACD's sound so nice...and probably why my wife can't stand Fogerty. His vocals were always screechy(not that this ever bothered me), and most reissues made him sound even worse. Haven't managed to talk her into giving your work a go, but hope springs eternal...:)

    :ed:
     
  9. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    Steve - have you ever encountered a master tape that sounds and feels significantly different than the classic vinyl from which it was 'mastered'? What approach do you take when you 're-master' it for digital or analog?
     
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    All depends. That is where MY JUDGMENT comes in to play. Was the sound of the original LP a compromise? Did they really want the true sound of the master but didn't know how to cut it back then or the equipment was not up to the task or did they "fix" the master to sound the way they wanted it for the LP?

    I've done both, and somewhere in between. A very hard call. When it comes right down to it, it's my total responsibility to try and get what they had in mind back then.
     
  11. nosticker

    nosticker Forum Guy

    Location:
    Ringwood, NJ
    Steve,
    How do you approach remastering an album that was problematic to make in the first place, say "Katy Lied", for example? Was this album harder to master due to the dbx problems?


    Dan
     
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Katy Lied was easy. We just threaded up the tape and I "filled in the hole" a bit and did it.
     
  13. SonicZone

    SonicZone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Upland, CA
    Steve, when you master something to a digital format, how much of a stickler are you when it comes to digital clipping? Does three or four clipped samples in a given transfer -- whether it's an individual track or the entire album -- bother you to the point where it's an automatic reject/redo, or are you a little more tolerant than that?

    And thanks again for your answers to all these questions! :righton:
     
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Asked and answered here I think. If not, let me know:

    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showpost.php?p=1777135&postcount=540
     
  15. SonicZone

    SonicZone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Upland, CA
    Good enough, Steve -- thanks. Actually, I did search the earlier thread, but only for the word "clipping".
     
  16. JJ75

    JJ75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London UK
    Hi Steve,

    just a quick question which popped into my mind, apologies if this has been dealt with loadsa times before.

    When mastering a compilation album to vinyl, clearly the best approach is to always try to use the 1st gen masters for the tracks included in the comp.

    When you finally have the best masters, would you:

    a)
    first make a tape to tape compilation, setting up the tape playback machine for optimum sound quality for each master. Given every master tape would have originally been recorded on a different machine, the optimum settings will likely be different for each one. Then master the vinyl from that 'optimised' tape.

    b)
    compile all of those separate master tapes onto a single reel for the album, and set up the playback machine for overall optimum sound quality. This would involve some comprimise, but at least you'd be sticking with first gen tapes.

    c)
    Other

    Best Regards, and congrats on getting the RHCP job. (Wonder if Mr Frusciante lurks here too)

    JJ
     
  17. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I've done A and I've done C. (C being use TWO tape machines and switch back and forth for every song, like a radio DJ.) This way if the first song is Dolby A and the second song isn't, it can still be done first generation as long as you have three minutes or so to rewind and set tones... This way is a royal pain and if you goof you have to start the side over.

    All in all, fun. :shake:

    If the tapes are really old, fragile and in otherwise bad shape I'll do a 30 IPS or 15 ips 1/2" tape copy and cut from that. Saves wear and tear on the originals that way if there are lots of complicated moves that would mean starting over a lot of times.
     
  18. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    thanks Steve. :)
     
  19. JJ75

    JJ75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London UK

    Cheers Steve,

    you must need an assistant to mop your brow when using the two machine method :), especially if you are setting up the next tape and adjusting on one machine, while the other is playing a short track, FEEL the PRESSURE!!

    I'm surprised b) is something you've not done, as that is what Classic Records said they did for their My Generation Re-issue. I guess they could get away with it because the tapes are all from the same sessions. Still I guess there would still be some minor differences from one master to the next. Certainly the eq was different on each master, this is very obvious on their release.

    Thanks again.

    JJ
     
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    JJ,

    Option B is pointless for cutting unless the entire album is MONO. You can't string different stereo songs on one reel. Why? The azimuth adjustment will be different for each song and you can only adjust that before you cut or if you are using a second machine. See?
     
  21. Doug Hess Jr.

    Doug Hess Jr. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Belpre, Ohio
    Steve,
    Do you have a particular album or CD that you "check" your hearing with? For example, when I DJ at an event, I use your Hotel California as my benchmark. If that sounds OK, then I know my EQ, etc. is set right. Do you "check" your hearing with something familiar before going to work in a particular studio that may not have a sound you are used to due to the speakers, etc. so you know how to compensate?
     
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Doug,

    I take about 10 things with me to strange studios to try and scope out the sound. Mostly stuff that I've mixed or mastered, but also a few things from others. I start with my usual collection of Beatles/Stones/Buddy Holly, etc. pop stuff. During critical listening I used my old standby discs and SACD’s: Donald Fagen’s “Kamakiriand” CD on Reprise is valuable in listening evaluations because of the “one note” quality of the bass on some of the songs; synth bass has no overtones whatsoever. Not so great for enjoying but perfect for judging bass accuracy and response (a nifty little trick). I use David Lindley & El Rayo-X ‘Very Greasy” CD on Elektra because the recording is tuneful, full-bodied and just fun to listen to.
     
  23. JJ75

    JJ75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London UK
    I see, of course My Gen is all mono so it's an example where this can be done. I didn't think about azimuth, I've never had any access to high end tape equipment.

    However, I have read that some album masters are compiled from lots separate masters for each track joined together.
    Not forgetting of course, that many stereo song masters are made from different edit pieces being spliced in to form the final track.

    So I guess in these cases, extreme care is taken to keep everything calibrated the same.

    JJ
     
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    No, in these cases nothing is calibrated correctly and the whole shebang is out of whack. Can't adjust while a tape is playing.
     
  25. JJ75

    JJ75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London UK
    Sorry,

    what I meant was that the original engineers working on the track/album when it is being recorded/mixed/editied, have to take extreme care.
    So that impossible azimuth adjustments aren't necessary when the track is being played back for vinyl mastering, yes.

    JJ
     
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